In "The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man" tells the first-person narration of James Weldon Johnson. This autobiography shows a contemptuous point of view about skin color. Johnson clearly expresses his way of thinking as being purely acceptable in that time period. Johnson claimed that it was "most natural" to have children with people who had lighter skin. The problem throughout the novel is a man trying to find his identity which becomes the main theme of the book. In the book, "I finally made up my mind I would neither disclaim the black race nor claim the white race; but that I would change my name raise a mustache, and let the world take me for what I would"(Johnson 490). By saying this it meant that the ex-colored man could live fearless and from the white man and have a better life than a black person. .
There were many reasons Johnson had for wanting to pass for a white man. The world was set on this idea that a person had to be white in order to be successful in life. Unlike most blacks, Johnson was very educated so it was easy for him to adapt to the white culture. In the book though, he has the advantage of experiencing the good and the bad of both black and white cultures. When the book was published in 1912 there were very few opportunities in America for African Americans. The most success a black man had back then were those who were porters for the railroad. Johnson, however, was an artist and a scholar as shown by his cigar rolling apprenticeship in Jacksonville. Johnson has very high ambition considering the position that he is in. His fair skinned complexion allows him to live his dream and put his ambition to work. .
In the beginning of the book, evidence is given stating why Johnson thinks as he does. Johnson's mother tells him, "The best blood of the South is in you," (Johnson 400) when he asks who his biological father is. His mother showed very clearly that she loved, and perhaps was still in love with the white man who gave her a son.